Every summer, the city opens up the Los Angeles River for public access. During this time, you can enjoy a number of recreational activities, including fishing, hiking and kayaking.
Yes, kayaking in a waterway widely known for concrete, homeless camps, car races, E. coli, rogue inflatable flamingos and trash might not seem like something that aligns with your vision of water sports, but it is an actual joy. And it is a thriving natural environment with flourishing wildlife and medium-sized rapids (and twice-weekly water quality status updates).
We decided to go up the creek with a paddle and learn how to navigate the city by water. Here’s everything you need to know about kayaking the L.A. River:
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
First things first: You can go about your kayaking excursions solo or with a group.
There are a few companies that offer tours, two of which are named, confusingly, some variation of “LA River Kayak.” Whichever one you choose, a trip will run about two-and-a-half hours and range from $40-$75. You can also join one of the free “community paddle” meetups and special programs offered by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
If you want to go on your own, all you need to do is bring your kayak to one of the designated drop-in points where non-motorized boats are welcome, and stay within the boating boundaries.
Having often seen kayakers try to pry themselves unstuck from concrete and rocks, I opted for a guided tour. For my trip, I went to the Elysian Valley section with LA River Kayak Safari, because they offer tours on weekdays.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
My trip was led by Steve Appleton, owner and head guide at LA River Kayak Safari. Tour sizes range from seven to fourteen kayakers; ours was a full house. We had kayakers of all different levels and backgrounds.